Saturday, 2 December 2017

Poor me

I worry about the fragile state of the world around me, I really do. In the winter of ’63, trudging through the snow to our new home, the prospect of a bedroom of my own – albeit for just a year until my baby sister claimed it for herself – was a major leap in our family fortunes. Central heating, windows that fully closed and didn’t let the snow in, fitted carpets, a refrigerator, telephone and other such luxuries were many years in the future but at least we had, for the first time, an inside toilet.

This isn’t some pity-me, poverty story; I’m not even sure we were really so aware that we were poor. It was simple reality for millions of ordinary families across the land. A council house, a coal fire and a rented television... when we had electricity. Education and hard work were the ways up and out and the grammar school system was like winning the lottery for council house kids like me – and it was for access to this grammar school that we ended up here in an older house and not in the brand new house reserved for us on the other side of town.

The stirrings of social protest were abroad, but demonstrations were something only the hippies and the deranged had time for. The working class was generally pretty grounded and sacrifices made now, everybody seemed to agree, would yield dividends in the future. And things got better, for everybody; yet not everybody was satisfied. While the silent majority got on with the job of making ends meet, the malcontents were laying the ground for recruitment to the causes of cultural mayhem.

If you believe the hysteria, we are at tipping point on so many metrics – financial meltdown, climatic Armageddon, the mother of all Brexits, Trump - the literal anti-Christ - homelessness, child poverty, foodbanks, gender identity, women’s rights, the pay gap, the equality gap... gaps gaping as wide as the eye can see. Gaps created first by not taking the concerns of our minorities seriously and then by taking them far too seriously.

Triggered; the default state of the 
perpetually offended...

And yet, the sun rises, people go to work and the word keeps on turning. The huddled masses carry on almost as if they weren’t watching and don’t care... because they’re not. And they don’t. Furthermore they don’t need to. Selection may no longer be purely ‘natural’ but selection is an intrinsic part of our human story; we can make choices. Admittedly, not everybody has a cornucopia of options to take, but we all still have choices.

We can choose to be a victim, or we can choose not to let life grind us down. We can choose to be selfish, altruistic, or – if we have the means and the disposition – both. We can choose to take offence, even on behalf of others, or we can choose to cheerily suck it up. The poor will always be with us, especially when we make the definition of poverty subjective. But poverty is the absolutely best incentive to seek something better and most of the poor are doing just that.

The massed ranks of the protesting classes aren’t made up of poor people. They aren’t even really speaking for those people; those people are busy digging themselves out and many will succeed, unaware of the clamour raised in their name. The angry screeching you hear all around is the noise of the bubble. The echo chamber of the righteous who imagine that it matters; who think they know. In their minds they speak out for society, when in fact they are apart from society, existing in their own little fantasy world of impotent rage.

But where do they go from here? When our current crop of bien pensants wake up and realise all their protest has achieved nothing will they become the new charity cases? Clapped out, unemployable, mentally unhinged adult babies, forever trying to recreate their glory days; like Baby Jane – whatever happened to her? I almost feel sorry for them; poor things.

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